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We are parents and members of the community who are concerned about the drastic reductions in the library service for children in Barnet. Those under 15 can now enter only in staffed hours, unless they are accompanied by an adult- their independent access has been cut by 62%! Five children/teen rooms are closed, stock is reduced and fines introduced for children’s books. Children over 15 are able to use the unstaffed libraries, but will they be safe? There is no help available for them and study space is reduced by up to 50%. Partnership libraries are open only 15 hours a week, with no professional staff. We believe these changes will have a terrible impact on our children’s education and independence.
In place of access and stock, Barnet Council recommends that children should use digital and online resources at home instead. This ignores the documented impacts of screen use, including loss of sleep and poor eyesight, as well as raising online safety issues. Screens are a source of constant tension in many of our homes, as our children compete to use equipment, are distracted by addictive computer games and find it hard to concentrate on school work. Reading books should not depend on buying additional devices that many of us cannot afford. The new curriculum places emphasis on reading widely and ambitiously, but our children’s access to the only place open throughout the year where they can browse and try out different books is being blocked.
Libraries were a place where our children could safely go on their own to study or read in peace and/or meet with their friends - without spending money. This independence is crucial; anyway, many children do not have an adult able to accompany them. There are so few places in Barnet where our children can go– youth services have been cut and extra-curricular activities are often expensive and require our support e.g. with transport. Libraries are local, cater to all ages and all communities and are a place where our children, including those with special needs, can learn and become an independent part of the community they live in.
As a result of a complaint made by Save Barnet Libraries, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DDCMS) is investigating whether the Barnet library service meets the needs of all users – as set out by the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. We urge DDCMS to take into account the needs and welfare of children when deciding what remedial action to take. Our children are being driven to spend more time online, and discouraged from seeking independence, community contact and books.
Sign our Open Letter to the Culture Minister:
Restore the Library Service for Children in Barnet!